National Student Exchange [NSE] is one of the many study away programs that Keene State College offers.

Steve Spiegel, the associate director of the Global Education Office, said that studying away, either abroad or in the United States, is an option that not as many students take advantage of as they should.

“You get to live in different parts of [the] U.S. and the world, make friends, have different professors and take different classes,” Spiegel explained, “You get the opportunity to experience different cultures, not as a tourist but as a student living and studying in that area.”

Spiegel said that despite what many students think, studying away doesn’t always mean studying abroad. National Student Exchange is a study away program that gives students the option of studying at 200 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the NSE website.

KSC students who have studied away through NSE shared some of their memorable experiences.

Courtney Duff is a KSC senior who studied in Ireland for fall semester of her sophomore year, and when she wasn’t ready to come back to KSC, she studied in Fairbanks, Alaska for spring semester through the NSE program.

Taylor Asher was a student in Anchorage, Alaska who came to KSC though the NSE program for a year, now she is student at KSC and graduating in May.

John DiGeronimo, a KSC student graduating this December, studied in Colorado Springs for a year through NSE and plans on moving there this winter.

The NSE website says that it is popular because of the financial aspect of the program. The website states, “The program features a tuition reciprocity system that allows students to attend their host institution by paying either the in-state tuition/fees of their host institution or the normal tuition/fees of their home campus.”

NSE students pay room and board to their host institution unless the student lives off campus.

“It is very financially affordable for students, which makes this great option,” Spiegel said, “People often think they want to study outside the U.S. but haven’t even experienced the different parts of the U.S. and different cultures in their own country.”

Spiegel continued, “The Academic experience can be phenomenal because they get to take courses not offered in Keene with different professors at schools of all many different types and sizes.” He also said it gives students looking into graduate schools or moving the chance to try out the area before committing to it.

Duff originally studied in Limerick, Ireland because as a chemistry major she had to get classes that would transfer back and because it was affordable.

“When I went to Ireland I realized I didn’t want to come back [to KSC] yet and I wanted to see somewhere else, somewhere completely different that I’ve never been before,” Duff explained, “I knew I wanted to be in the U.S. so I could work because I didn’t have a lot of money after traveling in Ireland.”

When she narrowed down the choices to Hawaii and Alaska she chose Alaska because she said she likes the cold.

While Duff was there she got a job in the Biosciences library, which gave her a source of income and helped her meet people who live and work there.

In Alaska she took one class for her minor and one ISP course. The rest were courses she chose to take as electives for credits.

In Alaska, Duff took a beginners’ rock-climbing course, which was the first time she had ever rock climbed. “I absolutely loved it,” Duff said, “Because of that I now help out at an open rock climb and teach rock climbing classes at YMCA.”

Another course she took not offered at KSC was an arctic survival course, and her professor was ex-military with specialization in survival. Although the course is required for people that go into emergency medical personnel and aviation majors, she took it because she wanted to learn more about the outdoors.

“Our field day was twelve hours, from six a.m. to six p.m., outside in North Pole, Alaska,” Duff said. During that day she said she built an igloo and learned how to make different types of shelters, learned how to trap and skin rabbits and squirrels, although she didn’t take part in that, and learned how to start fires without matches.

Duff said she found out what she wants to go to graduate school for because of a course she took in Alaska. Now she plans on going for Chemical Oceanography.

Duff said, “I didn’t even know it was a thing until I showed up for my first day of ocean’s class in Alaska and started talking to my teacher’s assistant; now I’m looking for grad schools in that field and I’m really excited about it.”

The lack of sunlight in the winter did throw her off, Duff said. Despite thinking she would be able to handle it, Duff said when it was four hours of daylight a day she got depressed.

“Then it was light all the time,” Duff said, “At three a.m. people would go rafting down the river, rock climbing at midnight, go for runs; it was a lot of fun.”

Duff continued “It didn’t matter what time you sleep because its always daylight. Going to bed at noon was the same as going to bed at midnight.”

While in Alaska, Duff also got exposed to a lot of activities she said she never had the chance to try before such as dog sledding, skijoring, cross country skiing, ice climbing, ice skating and other activities.

Another KSC student with ties to Alaska had a different experience with NSE.

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Taylor Asher was a student in Anchorage, Alaska, when she and a friend decided to study at another school through the NSE program for their sophomore year.

“We had a list of criteria for the schools we would go to,” Asher said, “We wanted it to be near a city but not in a city because we were from such a small town, we wanted it to have a small downtown area but have a big on-campus presence, and a few other things.”

Out of 200 schools Keene State College was the only school that fit all of their criteria.

Asher planned on attending KSC for a year, but three days before the spring semester was over, she said she realized that she didn’t want that to be the last time she was at KSC, so she applied as a student and has attended for the last three years.

“I love the campus and the college town,” Asher said, “There are always people around and a lot to do.”

John DiGeronimo is a KSC student graduating in December after his eight semesters of college. He attended University of Colorado, Colorado Springs [UCCS]  and ended up staying a full year, from August to August.He chose Colorado Springs because his sister lives there. The area was appealing to him because he wanted to experience the Colorado outdoors, laidback culture and new opportunities. While at UCCS he took classes for his economics major, and they all transferred back. DiGeronimo said he had a very easy time getting his courses to transfer back, which he did before his year at UCCS started.

“They didn’t offer the courses here, it’s a whole different course catalogue, their classes are three credit courses,” DiGeronimo said, “but I know they encourage people to travel so I think that’s why they kind of override things.”

DiGeronimo got to be good friends with his sister’s husband, who trains at the Olympic Training Center for shooting, and his teammates. On Tuesday nights in the fall DiGeronimo would take other NSE students, there were about 15 to 20, to go bowling with these Olympic shooters, which became a weekly activity.

He also got involved with a band while he lived out there, DiGeronimo said he played drums here but wasn’t involved in the music scene. He said since he was driving out there he brought his drums and admitted he didn’t know what would happen but said it worked out really well.

DiGeronimo explained, “The week I got out there I found someone on Craigslist and auditioned,” and once he got chosen, his new band [Tattooed Grin] had a show two weeks later. “At the same time I was starting classes, I was learning songs for the new band and the upcoming show at local venue,” DiGeronimo said.

Although he hadn’t planned on staying throughout the summer, DiGeronimo said since he got a ten-week internship with the financial advisor at Edward Jones he decided to stay. DiGeronimo said this gave him experience and opened his eyes to a new potential career path.

DiGeronimo said he plans on moving back out to Colorado Springs in January, to regroup with his band and has since applied for jobs with Edward Jones as a financial advisor.

DiGeronimo said he recommends NSE because, “It’s a whole program designed for you to get the best experience you can while seeing another part of the country, there’s so much that most students haven’t seen.”

He continued, “It gives you the opportunity to go somewhere else, learn what the culture is like there and see if it’s a place you like. For me it worked out, now that’s the place I want to move and I don’t know if I would feel the same way if I didn’t do NSE.”

Courtney Duff, who studied in Alaska, said she also highly recommends NSE, “Our country is so big that you can find a lot of diversity and different types of culture. You also learn a lot about yourself when you’re away, especially when you’re on your own.”

Duff said financially students shouldn’t feel held back from doing NSE because for her, it was cheaper than attending KSC.

Duff added, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great time. A lot of people are willing to take you places for free because they want you to experience where they live and what they do.”

Spiegel said students who have gone to schools through NSE come back surprised how much they’ve learned about how different these places are. “We have sent students to historically black colleges, schools with big and diverse populations, urban areas, rural areas, and you live in all these places and get to know people and customs of these places.”

DiGeronimo said, “This gives you the chance to get away and experience somewhere else and get a whole new set of opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise existed,” DiGeronimo said.

DiGeronimo’s gave advice for students to “Do it. Stop making excuses and find a place to go. It’s cheap and you won’t get this opportunity beyond your time [at college]. It just makes so much sense.”

The deadline to study away for the fall or spring semester of next year through the NSE program is March 1.


Taylor Thomas can be contacted at

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